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New Mercyhurst poll: Trump, Carson lead GOP field in PA

Monday, October 5, 2015

Most Pennsylvania Republicans believe it is important that their party’s nominee for president be an outsider, with Donald Trump and Ben Carson currently taking the lead, according to a new poll released today by the Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics (MCAP).

“Republicans in the state are expressing a great deal of dissatisfaction with Washington and are eyeing political outsiders as potential bearers of their party's mantle in 2016,” said MCAP Director Joseph Morris. “In fact, three of the four leading candidates are political outsiders.”

Fifty-seven percent of the state’s 483 (MOE +/-4.5, Sept. 21 – Oct. 1, 2015) registered Republicans say they want their candidate to be an outsider; with 18 percent choosing Trump and 18 percent giving the nod to Carson were the election held today. Among the top-four choices, only Jeb Bush is a politician insider; he garnered nine percent of the poll vote; outsider Carly Fiorina captured eight percent.

The gravitation toward an outsider comes from the overwhelming disapproval rating (82%) among Pennsylvanians for the job President Barack Obama is doing. Consistently, 60 percent rate Congress’ performance as poor.

Despite the frustration with Washington politics, Republican voters have not slammed the door on political insiders.

“On the one hand they're telling us that they have a preference for a political outsider, and on the other they're telling us a candidate's insider status is not going to impact their decision on election day,” Morris said. “A candidate may be a political insider - a governor, senator or son of a former president - and it doesn't disqualify him or her as a potential nominee.”

When asked if they were more likely to vote for a candidate who was not a politician and has not held elected office, a plurality (45%) say being a political outsider will have no impact on their decision. Similarly, majorities say a candidate’s status as a governor or former governor (52%) or senator or former senator (55%) will have no impact on their election-day decision. Sixty-one percent of Republicans – a solid majority – say that whether a person has a former president in their family – a clear indicator of one’s status as a political insider – will have no impact on their decision. When these factors are combined with the large number of voters (17%) who say they are undecided about who they will vote for in Pennsylvania’s primary election, the possibility that a skilled political insider may ultimately prevail cannot be dismissed.

Despite their frustration with Washington and relatively high level support for political outsiders, Pennsylvania Republicans remain committed to their party. Seventy-nine percent say they have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party and are closely following the primary election process. Sixty-one percent said they would not vote for Donald Trump if he ran for president as an independent. Pennsylvania Republicans enthusiasm for the field of candidates is reflected in the candidates’ favorability ratings. With the exception of Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and John Kasich, majorities of Republicans say they have a favorable opinion of each of the candidates.

On the issues, Pennsylvania Republicans were asked which should receive priority from the federal government. In order of preference, they said: national security and terrorism, job creation and economy, deficit and government spending, health care and immigration. You can view the complete poll results here.